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Yakima, WA: Where There’s More Hops Than People

Hello everyone, my name is Allyson Wentworth and I am a junior studying agricultural sciences and viticulture and enology at Cornell University. My interest in agriculture stemmed from the ten years I spent in 4-H training dogs. I was exposed to the agricultural industry and decided that it was the field I belonged in. After deciding that agriculture was the path for me, and arriving at Cornell, I quickly learned that I wanted to focus on integrated pest management (IPM). During September of 2017, I managed a post-doc student’s research on phylloxera, a common grapevine pest that devastates vineyards by feeding on the rootstock. The goal of this research is to discover what signaling causes the phylloxera to feed on some varieties of rootstock, and not others, and whether there is a plant out there with similar signals that can detract the phylloxera from the rootstock. After working with this research for a month, I decided that I wanted my summer internship to focus on IPM.

On May 25th, I arrived in Toppenish, Washington where I began work at Perrault Farms, Inc. located on the Yakima Reservation, one of the largest hop growing regions in the world. Perrault Farms owns and farms 750 acres of commercial and organic hops and 30 acres of organic blueberries. Perrault Farms works alongside Select Botanicals Group, Yakima-Chief HopUnion, and Hop Breeding Company to develop new hop varieties and further their sustainability. I am here working as an IPM scout, searching the fields for pests and disease.

I will be spending the summer scouting Citra and Mosaic hop fields, along with a few experimental varieties and a small acreage of Ekuanot and Palisade. All of these varieties were developed by either Select Botanicals Group (SBG) or the Hop Breeding Company (HBC). One of the more well-known varieties that was discovered by Perrault Farms was Simcoe. Fun Fact: Simcoe was one of the hops chosen to brew the Windsor Knot, which was the beer served at Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May.

Citra Fields Week 1

My day begins by arriving to the farm at 5:00 AM, just before the sunrises. There is a lot of work that needs to get done so the earlier we arrive, the earlier we finish scouting our assigned fields. This is also nice because the mornings here are cold, so we don’t have to work outside during the heat of the day.

5:00 AM Sunrises

We load up our ATV’s with what we will need for scouting and head out. Each weekday is assigned about 4 to 6 different fields that need to be completed with different scouting density levels. Scouting density levels are determined by the degree of pest or disease thought to be present in a field. A level 1 density is scouting one geographical point, which is described as a pole-to-pole section of 15 hops, every 15 rows. Level 2 is 2 points every 10 rows and level 3 is 2 points every 5 rows.

Protection from the Sun and Dust

The first week we began scouting for powdery mildew and downey mildew. Powdery mildew appears near the hill (base) of the bine and will spread upwards. Bines are susceptible when temperatures are high and moisture is present in the hill. It appears as a fuzzy, white, misshapen blotch on the leaves and if not treated properly, can devastate the entire crop. Downey mildew appears in moist conditions. Therefore, it is typically seen after a heavy rainfall. It’s characteristic traits are short, stunted vines growing near or around the hill, with downturned yellow-colored leaves and black spores on the underside of the leaves. A bine infected with downey mildew will only grow to about half it’s typical height and therefore yields will be significantly lower.

Downey Mildew

My project for the season is to measure nutrient levels within the vegetative growth of the bine and determine what nutrients the hops are deficient or overly-sufficient in and how to resolve the issue. Old and new leaf samples of various fields are collected to be tested. The reason for collecting both old and new leaf samples is to see if the nutrients from the old samples have been are mobile, and therefore present in the new leaves. The leaves are placed in a hydraulic press which squeezes sap out and into a small sample cup. I will then take these samples and run sap analysis which involves the use of six different sensors. These sensors measure the levels of nitrate, potassium, calcium, sodium, pH, and water conductivity. Thus far, there have not been any determinations made on what nutrients need to be applied to fields but I am hoping to help make these decisions starting next week!

Meters Used to Measure Nutrients         

Hydraulic Press

                           

Sap Samples

We have also begun scouting for pests and beneficials, however, since it is early in the season, and the weather has been rather mild, there hasn’t been too many sightings of either. Next week should begin to pick up with pest pressures and I will be reporting back with more information and pictures on that!

 

Hop Fields and Mount Adams

 

 

 

 

 

Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, Malting Barley, Green Snap Beans, Beets, Peas, Hay and More: Oh My!

My first few weeks at Kreher Family Farms have been an adventure, to say the least! Although many of you may have never heard of Kreher Family Farms, you have probably encountered their products. Have you ever bought eggs at Wegmans or Egg Lands Best eggs? If the answer was yes, then you have supported the Kreher Family! Kreher Family Farms is a large Organic and Conventional Poultry and Crop farm that spans many counties in Upstate New York and was founded in 1924. We grow crops and/or raise chickens in Erie, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston and Wayne County.

This summer I am interning with the Crops Team and have not seen a chicken yet! I began interning with Kreher’s

A beautiful day to make 1st cutting hay on land that is being transitioned from conventional to organic.

just as cropping season was kicking into high gear. My first few weeks have been spent doing a variety of things including scouting for early season diseases and pest, creating a management plan for combating the Bind Weed that is scattered throughout the farm and thinks our corn is the perfect thing to grow up and making hay. I have also spent a bit of my time typing field address into my GPS to find the fields, but now I have learned the fields and by the end of summer will probably be able to find them with my eyes closed! I have learned a lot about a variety of insects and disease in a variety of crops thus far because Kreher’s embrace diversity(in case you couldn’t tell by the title!).

 

The first beets of the year! Beet planting will last for many weeks because the processor can only handle so many a day during harvest.

Many of us have heard the old wise tale that diversity is beneficial, especially in organic crops.

Green beans for miles!

Kreher’s embrace diversity and have been successful in using diversification of crops to help them control disease, pest and weed pressure. All the crops are produced organically. The green beans and beets are grown for human consumption while the field crops are grown for the chickens. Another unique aspect of the operation is that along with the chickens and crops, Kreher’s also produce and market their own organic compost and fertilizer!

 

I have learned a lot in my first few weeks here at Kreher Family Farms and I am sure I will continue to learn more because this operation is so intricate and diverse! Until next time, I will continue to enjoy my free employee eggs and embrace the fact that I have yet to see a chicken!

Wrapping Up Harvest

This semester I was lucky enough to have room in my schedule to continue working a few days a week at ACS. My summer internship is over but I’m still working part time as this year has been extremely busy and there is always work needing to be done. My “summer internship” ended on sort of a slow note; much of the busy scouting was over and the next thing to focus on was CSNT’s (Corn Stalk Nitrate Test). This test is done right before harvest and it requires cutting whole plants (around 15) from different areas of the field to get a representative sample. We cut the stalks 6 inches up from the ground and then again 8 inches up from that cut, giving us an 8-inch piece of stalk. We then quartered those 8-inch stalk pieces and kept only 1 of the 4 quarters for each stalk. We put those pieces in a paper bag and sent them to the lab to be analyzed. The results from this test are important to farmers because it lets them know how much nitrogen was taken up by their plants which is a relationship to how much they applied; either over applied, under applied or applied the correct amount. With regulations on CAFO dairies only getting stricter, this allows farmers to adjust their application based on what the plant actually took up. The PSNT allows them to know what they need to apply pre-harvest but the CSNT lets them know how well they did following the recommendations determined by PSNT.

The dry matter test for corn was also a test we did a lot of and that consisted of us running the sample plants through a small wood chipper into a big garbage bag, and from that sending a smaller sample to the lab to be analyzed. Doing this before harvest gives farmers an idea of how much feed they are going to have after harvest is in and allows them plan accordingly if they think they need to purchase more. For the majority of farmers we dealt with this year, having too little corn was not a concern unless they weren’t able to get it planted during our very wet spring.

As harvest got to be underway, the next stage of busy work started and that was post-harvest soil sampling. Depending on the field, either whole fields were sampled as one sample or multiple sections within that field were sampled. Some fields are near water courses and have “manure setbacks” which is an area in the field that runs along the watercourse where manure cannot be spread. These sections are generally sampled separate to be sure that the N and P content of the soil are not of concern.

The soil sampling will continue into the winter months which means sampling even in the snow if that’s how the weather turns out. Thousands of samples will be taken from New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, then be sent back to the lab and analyzed just in time to give farmers recommendations for next planting season.

Late Season Scouting (continued)

At several of our farms we began to see some Northern Corn Leaf Blight in their fields and once our other clients caught wind of it, we were scouting full time for blight. Northern Corn Leaf Blight is identified by grey, cigar shaped lesions on the leaves of the corn plant and it generally shows up in the late season, from around the V12 stage and on. Due to the staggered planting this year because of the wet conditions, we did see some blight in corn that was younger, around the V8 stage. The majority of the blight that we saw was in fields that were no-till planted; the fungus is able to overwinter in the corn residue on the surface so in no-till applications it’s much more prevalent. When temperatures rise, the fungus become active and its spores are splashed up onto the leaves of the corn plant. It needs 6 to 18 hours of water on the leaf’s surface to infect the plant so during wet years like we’ve had this year or when the temperature cools and the dew takes longer to burn off, the fungus begins to be a problem.

Northern Corn Leaf Blight on left and Anthracnose Leaf Blight on right.

Another fungal disease we saw was Anthracnose leaf blight which is similar to Northern Corn Leaf Blight and causes similar foliar damage. Both fungal diseases cause the most damage when they’re seen in the crop during the period of two weeks before tasseling stage and the two weeks after tasseling stage.

The best way to control both of these diseases is to increase tillage practices to bury the stubble or plant resistant hybrids. The fungal disease is still seen in the resistant hybrids but the damage isn’t substantial and doesn’t cause any yields losses.

Nearing the end of my internship, I decided to continue to working with ACS during the semester throughout the rest of scouting season and harvest.

Late Season Scouting

Our late season scouting focused mainly on fungal diseases and some pests as well. At this point the corn was around the tasseled stage, VT, and usually way over my head which made scouting pretty miserable.

One of the more common late season pests that we saw was the Fall Armyworm. Several of our clients are produce farmers and the majority of the Fall Armyworm damage we saw was in their sweet corn. They aren’t as common in field corn; however, we did see a number of field corn acres that showed damage symptoms, luckily none bad enough require action. The late timing at which the pests arrive is what makes them a problem; the corn is usually too tall to get a sprayer rig in the field that can spray for the worms. They cause the same type of foliar damage as the Armyworm you see in the early season but they will feed on the ear as well.

We saw much more of the fungal diseases than we did of the late season pests. Common rust was a major one and along with the rust we saw a lot of Eyespot. Rust is casued by the fungus Puccinia sorghi and just like the potato leaf hopper, the spores of the fungus are blown north by winds and storms and they end up here in our crops. The fungus dies in the winter with our cold climate but its able to overwinter in the southern temperate climate and each year it makes its way north. Usually the Common rust doesn’t cause any substantial yeild losses but the Southern rust is one that can cause a lot of damage. We were told to indiciate any form of rust that we found in the field, which leaves it was present on and what percentage of the plants in the particular field had it.

(Fall Armyworm on left, Eyespot in center, Nitrogen burn on right)

Eyespot is another fungal disease that favors a cooler climate than the rust but still the humid conditions. Its able to overwinter in the corn stuble and its seen more commonly in fields that have been planted in continuos corn. Luckily none of the corn we scouted showed severe symtoms of Eyespot and it wasn’t a huge issue for our farmers.

Nitrogen burn from sidedressing the corn was something else we saw a lot of but there nothing that can be done about that. The late season scouting continued and increased instances of blight began to worry some of our farmers.

Week #5: USQ Toowoomba and Shepparton City Council

Day #1:The first day of the week was spent at the University of Queensland Toowoomba campus, with an AgTech research group called the NCEA.  I spent all my time meeting the faculty members.  All of this was organized by the organization head Dr. Foley.  The work at USQ was very interesting, and is one of the biggest reasons I’m going to take a few engineering classes.  They do research using drones, build machines for other researchers, and have their arms in almost everything.  One of the coolest faculty I met was Les Zeller, a man who has come up multiple times in my turfgrass studies with Professor Rossi.

Day #2:  Tuesday was when the hard work started.  I went out with one of the Agricultural Engineering students to help him with a research project he was running.  We went to a farm with an overhead irrigator and measured the RPM and flow rates of every three sprinkler heads.  This was miserable work.  It was the coldest day I had in Queensland, probably 40 degrees Fahrenheit, extremely windy, and we were running under the water.  To make things worse, I ended up falling into the irrigation ditch.  For how physically challenging this day was, it was nice to see some applied research.

Day #3: I went back to Shepparton early in the morning, and went right to work with the Shepparton City Council.  I was working with the sports field managers for the Shire, which is the Australian version of a county.  They are basically in charge of taking care of the AFL and Cricket ovals that are built in each small town, village, and city.  Because it was the winter, work was slow, so the tasks we completed were mostly small.  Things like moving the Shepparton football grounds growth cover to an area that had taken a rather large amount or wear.  We reseeded, added a topdressing, and then rolled over the problematic areas.  I was also given a brief tour of most of the surrounding ovals and sports fields in the Shire.

Day #4:  Spent day #4 working more with soccer fields.  The main field at the newly constructed $20 Million AUD sports complex was in very good shape.  We added some topdressing to the sideline where the assistant referees run up and down.  After that we repaired sprinkler heads, and drove to other fields to topdress and sometimes reseed.  Though the work wasn’t the most stimulating at the City Council, it was great to see applied turfgrass management, and how much recent research was actually used by the workers in the field, cause one of the first things I learned on the trip was that there’s a massive gulf between research and the actual applications in Australia.

Day #5: Spent at the office on a very quiet day.  Learned about all the council does, and caught up on blog work.

Until We Meet Again…

I cannot believe where the summer has gone. Today is officially the last day of my summer internship with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County and in less than a week I will be sitting in class at Cornell. I have had the opportunity to do so much this summer in all different areas. Whether it was with dairy cows, corn plants or teaching youth around the county in various different settings, it all flew by so quick! I’ve been busy right up to the very end so I’ll share the last couple of weeks with you!

As many people know about, Empire Farm Days took place last week in Seneca Falls. This was only my second time attending, it was something my family never did as I was growing up. It is really awesome to see all of the people attending. Whether they were vendors promoting their specialty in the industry or a business bringing their merchandise, everyone is connected by one thing: agriculture. What some attendees don’t realize, is that Empire Farm Days can greatly benefit the youth involved in agriculture, as well. On Thursday, FFA and 4-H members can compete in different events, one being the Tractor Safety Contest, which I was involved in. In order to be able to, they must have already completed their tractor safety course. Between FFA and 4-H, there were over 20 students who participated. They take a written test, do a tool identification part, and have to drive two different courses, a two-wheel and a four-wheel driving test. Points are deducted for things like speed, not wearing their seatbelt, hitting barriers and distance from where they are supposed to park it after completion. It is really great to see all of the participants and how knowledgeable some are about the safety and driving skills.

This past week, Betsy and I finished at our last tiestall for the tiestall lameness research study that we have been doing and I have been constantly talking about all summer. Next, all of the data will be compiled and she is hoping for results and final conclusions to be available in the fall. I am really curious as to what the findings end up to be and am hoping I get to see them even though I will be deep into my coursework throughout the semester! The tiestall study was one of my favorite things that I was involved with this summer, probably because dairy cows are my favorite thing and really my only hobby! In the picture, I am measuring the height of the cow. I measured the height and width of every cow that was involved in the study to see if there was any correlation of lameness and size. It will be interesting to find out if there was or not!

Another neat thing that the South Central Dairy and Field Crops team does is send out a couple of digest newsletters throughout the summer to agriculturists in the areas that they cover. The digest includes articles written by members of the team, as well as other scholarly articles about whatever is a hot topic. This particular digest includes articles about different things like heat stress in dairy cows, corn harvest because the weather has been so crazy, as well as common pests found in field crops throughout the region this summer. I have attached the link below for those interested in reading the digest. Check out the article I got to write about the robot farm tour!

https://nydairyadmin.cce.cornell.edu/pdf/newsletter/pdf151_pdf.pdf

As my summer internship comes to an end, I am very thankful that I was able to intern at the Cooperative Extension office in Cortland with the 4-H department and the South Central Dairy and Field Crops team. It allowed me the diversity I was looking for, while still being connected to agriculture in all of the different departments. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun while doing so. This is a summer I will definitely not forget!

Week #4: CAF Engineering

Day #1: CAF Engineering is a civil engineering consulting firm.  They do pretty much everything, but have recently been very involved in building the new dairy installments that are a result of the increased investment from Asia into the Australian markets.  I was lucky on my first day to be invited to a meeting that the owners of CAF were having with a farmer who was in charge of updating and automating his dairy, with help from foreign investors.  The firm had just won the contract and were meeting him for the first time.  The meeting itself was very short, but the crew wandered around afterward looking at the current infrastructure to get a good sense of the land, and what they would have to do to rework it.  It was interesting to hear that whatever the first plan they make ends up being, that the end product will not be the same anyway.

Day #2: I spent the second day working with my cousin, who works at CAF Engineering as a project manager for a new dairy installment.  I got to look around and see what onsite management looks like, as well as experience the large gulf in communication between engineers and the people who actually end up building things.  I can now see how important it is to find someone who can bridge the gap between the engineers, who aren’t always very good at communicating their ideas, and the onsite workers, who can be very stubborn and don’t always like engineers.  Around noon I left the site and helped the firm surveyor with plotting new cattle paths and pastures, which was actually something I quite enjoyed and may take up in the future.

Day #3: I spent day #3 in the office, learning how to use the civil designing program called AutoCAD.  This is something that many of the employers said is a very useful skill to know, and that most people who know how to use it end up getting job offers.  Luckily, Cornell has a membership for all undergrad students at Lynda.com, a website that is good for learning practical workplace skills across any career type.

Day #4: the next day I spent learning about how drones are used in surveying fields.  CAF likes to use the drones to measure evapotranspiration rates using NDVI satellite, and field cover among other things.  Brent, the surveyor, showed me very clear examples of how a farmer thought his crop was looking healthy and uniform, but was then showed how wrong he was.  The before and after pictures showed very obvious changes.  I’m not sure how commonly drones are used in American agriculture, but there is definitely a place for them.

 

Day #5: I spent my final day at CAF with the surveyors again.  Our assignment was to go out to a winery that wanted to expand its water catchment area, and help survey the land so that the firm knew what they were working with.  I again very much enjoyed this part of the work experience I had, and hope to look into it more in depth at Cornell

Diverse Scouting in Central New York

After visiting Empire Farm Days for the first time this Tuesday, I was reminded of the incredible variation in agriculture in the great state of New York. From beekeeping, to dairy farming, to apple production, New York has a lot to offer in the agricultural sector. I was able to observe all this at the farm days this past Tuesday, where I had the fantastic opportunity to speak with growers, producers, and other professionals in the industry. I was able to converse with representatives from the company GVM, who produce spray trucks, about interesting advancements that the company plans to include in their trucks and software as the future nears.

Beyond Empire Farm Days, I had the opportunity to scout more diverse crops than I had been scouting in the east for most of the summer. CaroVail crop consultant Mark Avery and I began our day scouting a 35 acre pumpkin patch at a farm near Auburn. This particular patch of pumpkins had been effected negatively by powdery mildew, and had to be treated sooner rather than later. The conclusion we came to was to spray the pumpkins with the fungicide Kocide 3000. I was introduced to the option of pesticide application from airplanes, which is a foreign idea in the Appalachian foothills of eastern NY.

Pumpkin Leaf with Powdery Mildew 

From the pumpkin patch, Mark and I went to a nearby sweet corn field. Though this sweet corn looked immaculate and was being harvested while we were in the field, Mark still taught about sweet corn and we each borrowed an ear just to be sure it tasted ok. It was interesting to learn that sweet corn only requires about 2/3 the nitrogen that field corn does, and that certain pesticides like Dicamba can actually make sweet corn plants go sterile.

The last stop on my Auburn scouting trip was to a local corn-soybean grower. I was able to observe how some soybean varieties tolerate moisture different than others. It was demonstrated well in a field where two different varieties were planted, and in the wet spots the more tolerant variety maintained a lush green color while the less tolerant beans were more of an unhealthy yellow. The devastation in the next fields came from an insect you may see regularly, the Japanese beetle. In the next batch of fields we found a lot of feeding, to the point where we recommended treatment. I learned that if these beetles multiply and lay their eggs in the field, the white grubs that hatch could cause serious issues in the following years crop.

Japanese Beetle

Potato Leaf Hopper and PSNT’s

Once the corn had reached around the V3 stage, the push to get PSNT’s (Pre-Sidedress Nitrate Test) done for our farms was on and I spent the majority of my days pulling samples. For the sample you take multiple 12” cores from all over the field to get a representative sample to use for nitrogen recommendations. Due to the very wet growing season we’ve had, a lot of corn is light green to yellow (an indicator for N deficiency) especially in the lower spots, which triggered a lot of our farmers to request these PSNT’s. Once the samples were pulled it was imperative that we kept them cool and got them back to the lab as soon as possible to make sure the sample and recommendation was as accurate as possible.

While the sampling and scouting was taking place, the alfalfa was growing back after first cutting and we began to notice the problem of the Potato Leaf Hopper. The Potato Leaf Hopper is a pest that normally feeds on the vegetative part of the potato plant, hence its name, however due to the lack of potatoes grown in New York it tends to feed on alfalfa instead. If the damage is intensive, the alfalfa plant turns a yellow to brown color and becomes necrotic. These pests can wipe out a pure alfalfa stand in a matter of days, depending on the height of the plant. The reason for this major outbreak of the Potato Leaf Hoppers is because of the great number storms that have moved their way up from the south and dumped rain on us all season. These small green pests are carried by the winds of the storm and end up here when the storm dissipates. Then when we get a few hot dry days after the storm, they reproduce like crazy and the problem starts.

 

We scouted the Potato Leaf Hoppers with sweep nets; generally doing 20 sweeps total throughout the entire field to get a good idea of the overall pest pressure. Then a decision would be made based on how many Potato Leaf Hoppers we found and the maturity of the alfalfa; using the Cornell guidelines as a reference. If we found that the pressure of the Leaf Hoppers was enough to call for some sort of action to be taken we would advise the farm to spray their alfalfa or mow it if it was close enough to harvest time.

 

After we got our PSNT’s taken care of and the Potato Leaf Hopper under control, the scouting continued with a focus on fungi and blight.

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